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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

GODS, DEVILS, AND MEN                       63

people to pride themselves on their present good fortune. For we
know that there are things in this life which last for ever, but this
terrace is not one of them.'"

If Su Tungpo had been older, his tone would have been mellower and
his shafts better concealed. As it is, the inscription, containing such a
calm contemplation of the ruin of the terrace it was supposed to cele-
brate and the innuendos about an old man never hearing of the hills
outside the city where he lived, is certainly unique in the literature of
inscriptions. But the old man was also big enough to take it. This time
he ordered the text to be inscribed on stone without any corrections.

As may be seen, Chen was really not a tad person at heart. After the
two parted their ways, Su came to see this and made amends. One of
the constant obligations of a writer who became famous was to write a
tomb inscription for a man upon the request of his sons or relatives.
Tomb inscriptions containing expected and rather hackneyed eulogies
of the deceased were of no literary value, besides always bordering on
* dishonesty. The writing of such a tomb inscription was sometimes
called by the ancients "flattering the dead". Still, it was a social obliga-
tion that a writer often found hard to decline. On this point Su Tungpo
made a rigorous rule for himself and carried it out; he would not write
a tomb inscription even upon the request of a prince. In all his life he
wrote only seven tomb inscriptions, each for a very special reason, when
Tie really wanted to say something. He also wrote one for this chief
magistrate years later. It was the longest he ever wrote except that for
Szema Kuang. For in the end the two men gained a high respect for
each other.

One must mention here Chen Tsao, the chief magistrate's son, who
became Su Tungpo's friend for life. Chen Tsao loved drinking, riding,
fencing, and hunting, and" was a great spendthrift. Su Tungpo met him
one day in the mountains when Chen Tsao was hunting with two
soldiers on horseback. A magpie had suddenly appeared in front of
him and his horsemen failed to shoot it down. With a curse the young
hunter dashed out from his hiding-place in the thicket and brought the
bird down with his first arrow. Something in the face of that young
'man attracted Su Tungpo to him. Later, Chen's father was sentenced
to death on account of allegedly receiving a bribe when serving in
another place. The story goes that when Su Tungpo was about to be
banished, Chen Tsao was at the time living in retirement in Huang-
chow. Remembering the quarrel Su Tungpo had had with Chen's
father, Su's enemies banished him to this place with the idea of placing
him at Chen Tsao's mercy. Perhaps Chen Tsao might want to avenge
his father, and Su's enemies would be technically guiltless, As a matter
of fact, Su had nothing to do with the father's death, and Chen Tsao